Hetfield has been a major endorser of ESP guitars since 1991, and is best known for playing custom-made Explorer-style guitars with an EMG 81/EMG 60 set for pickups. His popularization of the models was considered by some to be a catalyst in Gibson's decision to sue ESP over loss of profits (Gibson originated the model in the late 1950s and has allowed other companies to build replicas). Hetfield's main guitar from the early days was a white Flying V, used almost exclusively until it broke in 1987. After that he used a 1984 white Gibson Explorer bearing Metallica "Jump In The Fire" devil custom artwork as well as the words "EET FUK" and an '85 White Gibson Explorer. In 1988 he switched to using white and black ESP Explorer models.
During the mid-1990s, James Hetfield also used his two signature ESP Flying V models, one with red flames and one with green flames. He also asked a friend to fix black and silver diamond-plated metal onto the surface of some of his ESP Explorer guitars.
Recently Hetfield has become a frequent user of a Gibson Les Paul Custom, particularly the 1973 model.
James Hetfield is a true-blue guitar tinkerer, whose experiments, placements of stickers and modifications have resulted in the production of signature models by ESP guitars. He bought a black ESP ltd Viper baritone 300, installed an EMG Afterburner booster circuit, and asked a friend of his to paint green flames on it. This resulted in the limited edition "The Grynch" model guitar. He splashed some Killrust grey paint on an ESP Eclipse model guitar, installed EMG 81 & 60 pickups, moved the toggle switch to a lower position- which resulted in the signature model ESP "Truckster" guitar.
He also uses a two custom-made Explorer model guitars, built by bass luthier Ken Lawrence. Occasionally, James will use Kirk's electric guitars in the studio, in particular his Fender Stratocasters and Telecasters, as well as his Tom Anderson ProAmm (which was used for the clean guitar intro of "Enter Sandman").
* ESP M-II "Zorlac". This was the starting line for the whole KH series. It features veritcal skull & crossbones opposed to the horizontal ones featured on todays KH's, and an upside down Jackson Guitars style headstock which is what Kirk originaly intended. However, Jackson Guitars was not thrilled about this, and threatened law suits if this model ever hit stores. So the headstock was changed to a typical ESP but flipped upside down. Picture Picture
* ESP KH-2 (Main touring guitar) Kirk's signature model guitar is based upon the modifications he made to his M-II. (Nicknamed "Skully" because of the skull and crossbone inlays) Picture
* ESP KH-2 M-II - Boris Karloff Mummy I graphic (Kirk's favorite guitar. Kirk owns the rights to the image on it and it will NOT be released by ESP.Picture
* ESP KH-2 M-II - Ouija. This guitar contains 2 spelling errors on it. It sports the words "WILLIAM FUED TALKING BAARD SET" but it in fact should say "WILLIAM FULD TALKING BOARD SET"
* ESP KH-2 M-II - Boris Karloff Mummy II graphic. Same as the Mummy I but with heiroglyph inlays. Picture
* ESP KH-2 M-II "Fuck You" KH-4. It's the same as a typical KH-2, but with a pearloid pickguard, dot inlays, a Roland midi unit (for roland vg8/vg88), and the words "FUCK YOU" written at the 12th fret. Picture
* ESP ESP MII Skully 7 String. Though it belongs to Kirk, James mainly used it in the studio for St. Anger. It doesn't go on tour, rather than stays home with Kirk. Picture
* ESP KH-3 Eclipse - Pushead Spider graphic. It is taken from a classic les paul jr. shape with floyd rose and EMG pickups. Picture
* Gibson Les Paul Custom 1968 also known as "Black Beauty"; Kirk also uses regular Les Pauls at some performances Picture
* Jackson Randy Rhoads Model RR1T custom made from the shop specifically for Kirk Picture
* ESP KH-1 Flying V Picture
* ESP WaveCaster Blue- Wave Machine (Only 3 in existence.) Picture
* Fender Stratocaster 1998 - American black and green Stratocaster
* 1974 Gibson Flying V (Used mainly for recording the first four albums. In 1989 he replaced the stock pickups with EMG 81s. Was the third guitar he ever owned.)Picture
Kirk Hammett's first guitar was a cheap Montgomery Strat copy. The pickups had gold aluminum foil on them, and there wasn't even a name on the headstock.
Metallica's "St. Anger" DVD rehearsals features a new guitar which has "Invisible Kid" written on it, which he uses in the song "Invisible Kid"
Kirk uses ibanez guitars too
ESP New Style EX (JH-4)
ESP Custom Eclipse
ESP LTD F300FM
ESP LTD F300 Black
ESP Custom F 7-String Flame Inlays
ESP Custom F 7-String Cross Inlays
ESP LTD Black Cherry H207 7-String
ESP LTD F 7-String Skully Inlays
ESP Custom F Cross Inlays
ESP Custom F "Papa Het"